The Chef-Approved Way To Give Fried Chicken A Classy Upgrade

If you're someone who keeps up with fine dining trends, then you may have heard that fried chicken, the classic comfort food, has made its way into an array of upscale restaurants. The menu at David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar features a fried chicken and caviar dinner, which serves two to four people and comes in at $600 — alongside the chicken and caviar, the meal comes with chive crepes, crème fraîche, white barbecue sauce, and potato chips.

Meanwhile, fried chicken is the star of New York restaurant Coqodaq, with the main entree on the menu being "the Bucket List": roasted chicken consommé for an appetizer, fried chicken, veggies, and noodles for the entree, as well as frozen yogurt for dessert. At Coqodaq, you can also order an appetizer of "golden" chicken nuggets, which are paired with caviar. Clearly, fried chicken is being given a classy upgrade, whether or not it's paired with caviar. To understand this trend better and to get tips on how home chefs can elevate their own fried chicken, Tasting Table spoke with an expert: Chef Tim Bodell, the executive chef of Rustic at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Bodell thinks fried chicken represents versatility as well as comfort

Chef Tim Bodell lists two reasons as to why he thinks fried chicken has started popping up on the menus of fine dining restaurants: its versatility and the fact that it's a comfort food. Describing its versatility, Bodell notes that it can be paired with a number of sauces, side dishes, and drinks — in other words, it can be integrated into an abundance of existing menus.

Bodell says, "With the rise of foodie culture, there's a growing demand for unique and gourmet food experiences. Elevated fried chicken excites restaurant-goers by offering a twist on a classic dish with high-quality ingredients and creative flavor combinations like fried chicken, caviar, and a glass of crisp, refreshing bubbly.

As for why higher-end restaurants are pairing fried chicken with caviar, specifically, Bodell — who has his own recipe for fried chicken with caviar — explains that it all comes down to differing textures and complementary flavors. Together, each bite is exciting as well as tasty. He says, "Fried chicken, loved for its salty, crispy deliciousness, evolves into something more when pearls of caviar pop to release the briny flavors and buttery richness that envelope your taste buds, while still leaving room for the crunchy chicken skin that cuts through and shines."

Consider pairing fried chicken with trout roe

To pair fried chicken with caviar, first you need to know the difference between roe and caviar: Roe refers to unfertilized eggs harvested from any marine animal, while caviar refers to unfertilized eggs harvested from sturgeon fish. When it comes to elevating fried chicken, you don't need to stick to caviar specifically. In fact, Bodell recommends opting for trout roe.

Bodell explains that it has a "subtle flavor profile and mild brininess. The simplicity of the flavors make it easy to combine with fried chicken that might have some more intense and unique seasonings or sauces." Additionally, the orange color of trout roe ensures that the plate has an eye-catching visual appeal. One more bonus of trout roe? According to Bodell, it's often more affordable than other roe options — and we all know that caviar is quite pricey.

Overall, if you don't go with trout roe, Bodell highly recommends choosing a roe with a milder flavor so that the roe doesn't take attention away from the fried chicken. Bodell says, "I always find that simplicity is key with this particular pairing because of how flavorful each component is. Stick to basic preparations for both to allow their natural flavors to shine on their own and in unison." Finally, if you're going to pair fried chicken with roe, make sure not to go overboard on the sauce — it may clash with or overpower the roe.

How to elevate fried chicken at home

Adding caviar — or trout roe — is definitely one of the best and easiest ways to elevate a fried chicken dish. However, if you don't like the idea of eating fish eggs, then don't worry because there are plenty of other options for fancy fried chicken. Bodell recommends a truffle aioli, calling it "a quick, easy way to provide a luxurious twist and depth to fried chicken." Another truffle option is to whip up an irresistible classic truffle cream pasta and top it off with a fresh, crispy piece of fried chicken. If you're sticking to fried chicken on its own and need a side, Bodell recommends a watermelon and feta salad. Or, similarly, you could go with a grilled watermelon salad.

Plus, another easy way to elevate your fried chicken is to pair it with a nice wine to round out the dining experience. For this, we spoke to another expert: Andrea Card, the senior winemaker at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. When asked for wine pairing recommendations for a fried chicken and caviar combination, she said, "A rich and creamy Chardonnay with moderate acidity, like our Appellation Series Sonoma County Chardonnay, can pair well with fried chicken since the wine's buttery texture can enhance the richness of the dish without overpowering the delicate flavors of the caviar." Or, if you prefer red wine, she suggests the Appellation Series Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, which has a versatile nature and will easily complement the dish.